A reader writes:

I have been reading a book about the Inklings. When you said today in regards to torture, "And that is why - more than any other reason - this policy must be ended. Because no president can be trusted with it," a literary metaphor became  very real for me:

"Why should  we not think that the Great Ring has come into our hands to serve us in the hour of our need? Wielding it the Free Lords of the Free may surely defeat the enemy."

We lack Gandalf's wisdom:

Frodo said, 'But I have so little of any of these things! You are wise and powerful. Will you not take the Ring?'

'No!' cried Gandalf, springing to his feet. 'With that power I should have power too great and terrible. And over me the Ring would gain a power still greater and more deadly.' His eyes flashed and his face was lit as by a fire within. 'Do not tempt me! For I do not wish to become like the Dark Lord himself. Yet the way of the Ring to my heart is by pity, pity for weakness and the desire of strength to do good. Do not tempt me! I dare not take it, not even to keep it safe, unused. The wish to wield it would be too great, for my strength. I shall have such need of it. Great perils lie before me."

The point is not that between America and al Qaeda, there is any equivalence. It is that no country is good enough to trust itself with the evil of torture. And semantic denial is not renuniciation. That's why we have the rule of law. That is why those who treat it as an expedient will lose themselves before too long, whatever their initial motives. And they have, I fear. They have.

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